The Jaguares will be keen to continue their impressive home form when they host Africa 2 rivals the Sharks at Vélez Sarsfield on Saturday.
Wins over the Lions, Cheetahs and Reds on Argentine soil have been a positive, but on the road they have struggled to replicate that form. Ultimately that has cost them any decent chance of winning this Conference as the Lions lead them by 12 points, meaning this is a must-win.
In fairness it’s a must-win for both sides even if the Lions lose at the Force. They simply must keep up the pressure on last year’s finalists, who look the best hope from South Africa of lifting the Super Rugby prize. Wrapping up this Conference early would increase their chances.
What the Jaguares and Sharks must do is put some kind of a run of form together, which the former can definitely do, with their opponents after this week being the Sunwolves and Force, both on home soil. Three wins back-to-back would see the Lions looking over their shoulder.
Travel is set to play a factor in the Sharks’ form meanwhile as they head back to Durban next week to host the Force before flying to the Kings and then Sunwolves. Again this is a chance to make their move but they simply must be better than last week’s draw with the Rebels.
Looking at the history between these two sides, the Sharks have won the three previous meetings, though each game was decided by between three and five points. They are also aiming for consecutive victories outside of South Africa for the first time since Round 15 of 2014.
“They (the Jaguares) haven’t lost at home this year, it is going to be a very physical encounter, we know that and we know how tough they are at home,” admitted Sharks head coach Robert du Preez as he looked ahead to what is a difficult and critical fixture in Buenos Aires. “But having said that, we are going with a very positive mindset. We beat them there last year and we want to go there to get the win.”
The last time the teams met: These two clashed earlier this month as the Sharks edged to an 18-13 victory in Durban. In a low-scoring game,tries from Cobus Reinach and André Esterhuizen proved the difference as Agustín Creevy crossed for the Jaguares at Kings Park.
Team news: Jaguares head coach Raúl Pérez has made three changes, bringing in international duo Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore to the back-row, in place of Tomas Lezana and Benjamin Macome respectively. The other change to the starting line-up sees Joaquin Tuculet return at full-back, meaning Ramiro Moyano shifts out to the right wing as Santiago Cordero drops out of the squad altogether for this fixture.
The Sharks have named Jeremy Ward at inside centre in place of the suspended Andre Esterhuizen. Odwa Ndungane is on the right wing while Michael Claassens comes in for Cobus Reinach at scrum-half for the fixture at Vélez Sarsfield. Up front there’s a brand new front-row as Thomas du Toit and Lourens Adriaanse are the props and Chiliboy Ralepelle comes in at hooker in place of Franco Marais. Meanwhile, Ruan Botha replaces Etienne Oosthuizen at second-row while Jean-Luc du Preez returns on the flank, taking the place of a benched Tera Mtembu.
Form: Three home wins have been followed by three losses on the road for the Jaguares so they’ll hope a return to home soil changes their fortunes. The Sharks, despite drawing last week with the Rebels, have won five games to sit three points ahead of their hosts in Africa 2.
2017: Sharks won 18-13 in Durban
2016: Sharks won 25-22 in Buenos Aires
2016: Sharks won 19-15 in Durban
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jerónimo De La Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernandez, 23 Matias Moroni
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Johan Deysel
Date: Saturday, April 29
Venue: Vélez Sarsfield
Kick-off: 16:40 local (19:40 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)